You Can’t Be Your Best You If You Can’t Be You

Alpine Skiing

I’ve written before about being authentic. Being honest with yourself and others about who you are is important if you’re going to be able to show up as your best self, and to be able to do it with joy. If you have to pretend to be somebody else to fit in with friends or family, get or keep a job, succeed in various aspects of your life, then you likely won’t be happy along the way or do as well as you could have.

The NY Times ran an article this weekend about two-time U.S. national alpine sky champion, Hig Roberts. In the article, Roberts was quoted as saying:

“I just woke up one morning and I said ‘Enough is enough.’ I love this sport more than anything — I’m so lucky and privileged to be doing this — but I can’t go on another day not trying to achieve the person that I am meant to be. Which I think for each and everyone one of us, one of those main goals needs to be happiness and authenticity.”

Roberts said this as part of an interview with the paper in which he came out.

It can be incredibly hard for people to come out as gay (or bisexual, or transgendered, etc.). It can be even harder for people who are surrounded by a culture that may not be accepting, or may even be hostile. This culture can  be a sport (especially for male athletes, but also often for female), a religious community, a small town, and so forth. In these cases, and even in more supportive communities, being open and honest about who you are can take a lot of courage.

It’s clear that this is true for people who are LGBTQ, but being authentic can be scary for a lot of people. From a very young age we’re made to feel like we need to fit in or we’ll be left out. We learn early on that wearing different clothes, liking different music, doing activities that others around you aren’t interested in, can quickly put you on the outside of the “popular” group, create tension within your family, keep you off of teams, out of jobs (who you know and who likes you is important), and make life harder for you.

Going against what others around you are doing can create problems, but going against who you are can be even worse. Let’s be clear, however, that being authentic, being true to who you are doesn’t mean being an ass. Being authentic doesn’t mean hurting others because it makes you happy spouting racist comments, dissing someone else’s faith, or even refusing to wear a mask, but it may mean standing up against people who do those things.

Yes, being truly authentic takes courage. It can cost you friends, family, and opportunities, but hiding who you are can cost you your mental and physical health (stress will eat you up), and it won’t make things better for others who also wish they could be honest about who they are. 

Have courage in 2021, even if that means being more honest with yourself or just one person you can really trust. If we could all show more of this courage, the world would be a better place.

Featured image courtesy of Martin Rulsch under a CC-BY-SA license.

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